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Security Theater—Now with more Audience Participation!


Cartoon of TSA agents preparing to grope little boy

Borepatch argues that the TSA has not just an impossible job, but also has incentives that lead them to do the worst possible job:

Consider their metrics.  How would you measure success?  Quite frankly, there's no plausible metric here - to my knowledge, TSA has never caught a terrorist in the act. Sure, terrorists have been caught in the act (the shoe bomber, the Christmas bomber), but none of these were caught by TSA. The Christmas bomber was caught by an alert airline checkin employee; the show bomber was caught by passengers on the plane.

But consider the metric for TSA failure - a plane goes down.  Not hard to understand that one.

The combination of these positive and negative metrics means that the TSA will inevitably gravitate to maximum visible intrusiveness. This way they can justify their budget (lack of positive metrics) and deflect blame if something goes wrong (risk of negative metric).

The TSA has never caught a terrorist in the act. But they’re groping you with only the best intentions.

This charade is costing us $8.3 billion in cash, 19% of the Department of Homeland Security’s $43.6 billion annual bonfire. And how often does anyone mention the cost of humiliation, or even the more measurable cost of delays and trips not taken due to the crappy system?

Remember that transportation is communication. And more communication is essential for increasing prosperity. We’ll never have what does not come into being because people choose not to travel.


TJIC points to a CNN story which mentions the invisible losses attributable to Security Theater:

A 2008 survey found that air travelers “avoided” 41 million trips because they believed the air travel system was either “broken” or in need of “moderate correction,” the U.S. Travel Association said. The decisions cost airlines $9.4 billion, the survey said.